Blumenthal & Blackburn spearhead the bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act, which has nearly 50 cosponsors in the Senate
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Last week, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) hosted a roundtable with young people—middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college students—to discuss the harms they and their friends are facing online. Blumenthal and Blackburn are the lead sponsors of the bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act, which would provide kids and parents with better tools to protect themselves online, hold Big Tech accountable for harms to kids, and provide transparency into black box algorithms.
“Your bearing witness today is so very powerful,” said Blumenthal, welcoming the group, and discussing the Kids Online Safety Act. “We now have almost 50 co-sponsors. You know, that’s almost half of the United States Senate. That’s virtually unprecedented. And it’s evenly divided: Republicans, Democrats.”
“As we started looking at what was happening in the virtual space and having hearings, we heard from parents, kids, pediatricians, teachers, principals, child psychologists, and children’s hospitals,” said Blackburn, discussing the drafting of the Kids Online Safety Act and the bipartisan series of hearing the Senators held over the course of two years on Big Tech’s harms. “So many times they would open up with, ‘We’ve seen your hearing. We watched it. Can we tell you our story?’ And because of that, we knew this was a problem that needed to be solved.”
Sharing young people’s perspective on online issues were a group of middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college students from across the country, including Washington, D.C., Virginia, Tennessee, Florida, and Oregon.
“Just remember that if something abusive happens online, harassment online, exploitation online, it is not your fault,” said 13-year-old Frances Binford-Ross from Oregon. “We are dealing with so many forces, so many huge forces, and it is so hard to push against them. They have these algorithms that push extreme content on us just for engagement, for likes, comments, follows, anything. They do not care about our wellbeing and they’re not taking accountability for how they’re harming us, or for how they’re harming the future of this country.”
“I identify as a survivor of online exploitation, and the only reason I’m here talking about it is because I don’t want anybody else and their childhood to be for sale, because I was put for sale,” said 26-year-old Olivia Littleton from Florida. “Every single predator I’ve met that’s extorted me was connected to me through a website or an app, and they would have not had access to me otherwise.”